A Meaningful Chicago’s Mothers Christmas
Recently, the annual Chicago Mother’s Foundation Christmas event took place. We spoke to Edita Zasimauskaite, the leader of the foundation, about what could have been experienced at the event and the activities of the foundation during the holiday season.
PLEASE TELL US HOW THE IDEA FOR THIS EVENT CAME TO LIGHT?
Exactly six years ago, we created Chicago's Mothers Group (Chicago Mamytes) on ‘Facebook’. In this group, we shared experiences and advices about sick children. When the idea came about helping sick children, it was these moms in particular who rushed first to offer help. At that time, the charitable foundation was not yet created, but we already were surrounded by a lot of like-minded people. One evening, with a few of the moms, we decided to create a real Lithuanian Christmas event for the kids with Santa Claus, presents, fresh tangerines and of course, some kind of a Christmas fairytale. Ever since then, this celebration has been called ‘Chicago’s Mothers Christmas’ by everyone. At that time we didn’t know that this event would turn into a wonderful tradition with its own purpose.
WHY IS YOUR CELEBRATION ONLY AIMED AT MOTHERS?
Every year we are asked why this event is only aimed at mothers and their children. Almost all of the mothers who come to our Christmas celebration are active supporters of our foundation. Sometimes, some moms get upset and think that we discriminate against their husbands. But the explanation is really simple. The Chicago‘s Mothers Foundation has nearly 3,000 members and the venue can only accommodate 300 people. Consequently, if we were to create an event for the whole family, only a small fraction of the involved mothers could come. Another important reason why this event is aimed for mothers and their children is that we want mothers who have recently moved to Chicago to make new friends with whom they could communicate in Lithuanian. If they came with their husbands, some of them would be hesitant to meet new people.
WHAT WAS SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE EVENT THAT HAPPENED THIS YEAR?
Our events are always organized by a team of volunteers. Various sponsors contribute to the event by donating prizes to our lottery. This year, there were as many as 18 of the sponsors. From the lottery alone, we raised a significant amount of money to finance the activities of our foundation. This year, our prizes have been particularly brilliant. The Indre Mineikiene Puppet Theater from Indiana had agreed to join our event. I. Mineikienė wrote the script for the fairytale called ‘The Gray Wolf's Christmas’. We were greatly helped by the school ‘Pelėdžiukai’ and their leaders Gitana Stonkus and Vytautė Bilevičius. The well-known member of our community, Rimantas Pažemeckas also participated in the performance. Ramunas and Aušra Paulauskas, Ruta dance studio and many more amazing artists have joined and contributed to our celebration. We are very grateful to the Lithuanian World Center for their help. The children were so captivated by the performance that their mouths were gaping during the entire show. And they were really looking forward to seeing Santa Claus. Some of our kids have already grown up. A long time ago they were spectators during the children’s shows and now they come as volunteers. It’s so much rewarding when you can give someone real joy. And this year we received a lot of joy too. The children decided to bake us a lot of gingerbread cookies.
WHAT DOES THE CHICAGO’S MOTHERS FOUNDATION CHARITY DO?
We organize various events throughout the year. For example, during the ‘Colorful Band-Aid’ campaign, we collect colorful and animated band aids for children with oncological illness. There is also an annual toy drive, where new toys are collected and sent to Lithuania for the ‘Mother’s Union’. It is great that our foundation has a lot of helping hands. This year we have almost 40 volunteers. The past year has been very busy; we organized three major events, donated over $100,000 to children, $60,000 of which went to the newly built ‘Family Homes’. In Lithuania, these homes will care for children who are battling oncological illness and their parents. We also provide a lot of help to Lithuanian children with disabilities, and this year alone we donated over $20,000. When you interact with families who have sick children or are deprived financially, you realize that they are in need of the support of the whole nation.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME
Interviewed by Monika Augustaitytė
Photos by Rūta Pažemeckienė